There have been, I’m sure, billions of words written about it; breathless and overheated. Conservatives screaming about reverse racism and progressives screaming about fascist states and all of it’s bullshit.
Sergeant James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates tete’a’tete has dick to do with anything beyond two giant egos clashing in a kitchen and on the sidewalk. Both acted stupidly, like spoiled children, and both are going to keep that façade up until the day they both shuffle off to whatever is next.
It’s all about ego, baby. And trust me, I know from ego.
Gates is a Harvard professor and if the police report can be believed (and there are parts of it that have the ring of truth and other parts that are obvious ass-covering lies) one of the first things he said was that the cop had no idea who he – the cop – was dealing with.
Uh…yeah, I can see that being said.
Because I’ve been there.
I had a drunk driver last fall. Happened to be Queen High Shit in my town’s power structure. Lots of money, lots of power, lots of friends. Admittedly, she never said anything to me about who I was ‘messing’ with, but her body language, her attitude, the names she dropped, all served as a reminder that she was the Most Powerful Banker In The History Of The World and I was just a cop, probably not all that far removed from being an –inbred hillbilly and obviously not smart enough to do anything else except push people around with my badge.
A BMW and a large house and a husband who wandered around the state playing the best golf courses and friendships with all the lawyers in town and power over who knows how many people’s financial lives. On the stand, during trial, she called me a liar and a bad police officer and did it with that kind of shrugged shoulder, ‘I am sorry but he’ll never amount to much, I’m sure his Mother did her best,’ attitude that everyone in the court – except her friend the Judge – found appalling.
Can I be honest? I wanted to blast her right the fuck outta my life. I wanted to get in that woman’s face and unload the most vile, horrible, unprofessional venom I could come up with. There were even moments during her perjured testimony (and yeah, I can document a handful of straight up lies) when I wanted to jump over the table and bust her right in the puss.
But you don’t do that. You can’t do that. You sit there and take whatever bullshit she and her ilk, looking down their noses, sling.
You do that because you’re a police officer. You do it because this is the job you chose and believe it or not, there is a segment of society that dislikes you and will let you know whenever they have the chance. Tough titty, said the kitty. This is the gig you chose. Don’t like getting yelled at? Get a job as an mortuary assistant.
Now, I don’t believe my drunk driver and Professor Gates dislike the police because they are the police, I think they dislike the police because they are so much better than the police. They are richer, more accomplished, richer, smarter, richer, have more friends, richer….
Which is my certain bet what drove Sgt. Crowley batty. To be metaphorically spit on by someone whose home he was trying to protect.
I do not condone what Sgt. Crowley did. I think he was wrong. I think he, and the department, acted stupidly. I think he let Gates win that skirmish by letting the man get under his skin. And he reacted by arresting a man in his own home (or on his property, the curtilage…which is a boring legal construct that basically means the residence and immediate grounds, enclosed or not).
Gates got the better of the battle because he forced Sgt. Crowley to do something I certainly wouldn’t have done. But let’s be clear: in Illinois, the cops can’t be ‘alarmed and disturbed,’ which is the basis for a disorderly conduct arrest. Is it the same in Cambridge? Who knows? But I find it suspect that Crowley mentions in his report seven ‘unidentified’ witnesses who appeared surprised and alarmed.
Conveniently unidentified and who appeared surprised and alarmed? But none of the multitude of officers on the scene thought to get those witnesses’ information and actually ask if they were alarmed and disturbed? Come on, that’s just bad police work.
At the same time, this entire incident is over if Gates accepts that a passerby was concerned his house was getting burglarized, tried to help, and that the cops were there to check it out. Could Crowley have handled things better? Absolutely. Could Gates have gotten off his class-horse and cooperated? Abso-fucking-lutely.
So in the midst of a recession, a health care debate, two endless wars, staggeringly high unemployment, and the pain in my left knee, this is what the country is talking about: two ego-driven idiots who had to prove whose dick was biggest.
And as a short aside, before I leave you, wouldn’t this entire thing have been settled if the cops on the scene had as many cameras as I think law enforcement should have? Personal digital pocket recorders, which I think ought to be damn near required for officers, would have proven the situation one way or the other.
Except, honestly, the situation wasn’t one way or the other and we all know it. The truth of the situation is to be found in the muddy middle, the place where no one is satisfied.
Here’s a link to Crowley’s police report: